Police call on tractor drivers to pull into lay-bys more often

Police in Gloucestershire are urging tractor drivers and other slow-moving vehicles to pull into lay-bys more often to let cars by.

Concern has been raised about slow-moving tractors holding up traffic along the A40 Gloucester to Ross-on-Wye road resulting in long tailbacks.

This risks motorists being tempted to overtake when it is not safe to do so, warned Gloucestershire police.

See also: How to stay legal when towing a trailer

“When tractors and other slow moving vehicles don’t pull over when they have the chance to do so, in order to let traffic past, they can cause obstructions and long tailbacks, and they may be committing an offence,” said PC Richard Simpson who polices the Forest of Dean.

The Highway Code

The Highway Code asks all motorists to take care on country roads, Thomas Price, NFU farm safety adviser gives his thoughts on the relevant points in the code.

Rule 154: “Take extra care on country roads and reduce your speed at approaches to bends, which can be sharper than they appear, and at junctions and turnings, which may be partially hidden.

“Be prepared for pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, slow-moving farm vehicles or mud on the road surface.

“Make sure you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. You should also reduce your speed where country roads enter villages.”

The code also asks slow moving vehicles to pull in when safe to allow traffic to pass.

Rule 169: “Do not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if you are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle.

“Check your mirrors frequently, and if necessary, pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass.”

The point to note is to pull in when it is safe. There could well be circumstances when it is not safe to use a lay-by, for example, if it is too small for the vehicle concerned.

The presence of a lay-by does not automatically mean it has to be used.

“Therefore, police are asking tractor drivers and other slow moving vehicles to make a point of pulling into lay-bys more often, if possible.”

The support of slow-moving motorists in keeping the traffic moving was “much appreciated”, the force said.

Rule 169 of the The Highway Code (see right) states motorists must not hold up a long queue of traffic, especially if they are driving a large or slow-moving vehicle.

Failure to pull over when there is a long queue of traffic behind can constitute an offence of inconsiderate driving, which can be punished with three to nine points on a driver’s licence and a fine of up to £5,000.

The NFU advises tractor drivers that if a large queue forms behind the tractor, they should pull over “whenever it is reasonable and safe to do so”.

NFU transport spokesman John Collen urged tractor drivers to be lawful to other road users.

He added: “We have no more or less rights than anyone else.

“Courteous driving is paramount to keeping the public on side.”

But he said county councils across the country had not helped farmers by closing lay-bys to prevent overnight camping and notorious “dogging” spots where people park their vehicles to engage in sexual activity while others watch.

“Tractor drivers are often left with no alternative but to carry on moving, which is often the safest thing to do,” he added.

“Pulling over on a carriageway which does not have the right facilities is more dangerous than keeping moving.”

See also: Tractor speeds and weights: what the new laws mean

Mr Collen said the increase in the tractor speed limit from 32km/h (approximately 20mph) to 40km/h (approximately 25mph) had helped to ease congestion on roads.

And the Department for Transport was also planning to increase the maximum combination weight limit for tractor-trailers, which could reduce tractor journeys.

David Cousins, Farmers Weekly Machinery editor, said: “It’s all well and good for police to ask tractor drivers to pull in more often. But the problem is getting out again.

“A big tractor-trailer combination weighs about 25t, which is about 12 times the weight of the average car.

“It probably takes about 15-20 seconds for a tractor-trailer to pull out of a lay-by, at which stage you look behind you and you have already got 10 cars waiting and they all want to drive at 60-70mph.

“Tractor drivers do their best to get this huge momentum up to speed, by which time you can have upwards of 30 cars behind.

“Most lay-bys were designed in the 1950s and are short, so it is really hard to get a long run-up.

“Sometimes there are no lay-bys and farmers have to pull up on the grass.

“You sympathise with motorists who have to wait patiently behind tractors.

“But I think it is naive for the police to suggest tractor drivers should pull in more often. It shows they don’t really understand the work farmers do.”

What do you think? Should farmers be forced to pull over more often? Should other motorists be made to wait, especially during busy farming periods, such as harvest? Do we need a public awareness/sticker campaign to inform the public? Tell us your views. Email philip.case@rbi.co.uk or telephone 020 8652 4905.